Board Says Drug Cartels Targeting Cough Syrups

Source: Daily Nation (IRIN)
John Ngirachu

18 September 2011
Pharmaceutical companies have been forced to stop using two ingredients for making cough syrups following increased thefts of the addictive substances.

Pharmacy and Poisons Board head Dr Kipkerich Koskei said they outlawed Ephedrine Hydrochloride to curb illegal trade in the substance.

He said 1,894 kilos of Ephedrine Hydrochloride and Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride were stolen from pharmaceutical companies in the last year alone.

The substances are key in the manufacture of cough syrups and nose drops. Each pharmaceutical company is allowed to import a maximum of 3,000 kilos per year.

Based on information presented at meetings with Parliament’s the Health Committee, the substances reported stolen over the last three years have a street value of at least Sh255.69 million.

The Parliamentary Committee on Health accused the board of facilitating trade in narcotics by not regulating importation of the substances.

But Dr Koskei said while regulation had been proper, the problem arose from increased thefts of Ephedrine Hydrochloride and Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride.

“We are lucky in that we can only allow import of what we can use,” said Dr Koskei.

The substances are used to make methamphetamine, a white odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken orally, through the nose by snorting, by needle injection, or by smoking.

It causes increased euphoria once ingested and can lead to addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the United States.

The ingredients cannot be refined into methamphetamine locally, Dr Koskei said, thus the criminals export them for processing elsewhere.Another member of the board told the Nation the thefts were more rampant mid last year, when the World Cup was on in South Africa.

With the carnival atmosphere there, said the member, there was increased demand for methamphetamine, and an increase in the thefts in Kenya.

Dr William Mwatu, a board member, said the sale of Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride had until last year not been strictly controlled.

“Last year, a lot of Kenyan companies were broken into and the substances stolen,” said Dr Mwatu.

The two ingredients are imported from India at a price of $25 (Sh2,250) per kilo, Dr Koskei said, but with a street value of $1,500 (Sh135,00).

Photo/FILE The substances stolen are key in the manufacture of cough syrups and nose drops.

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